Faruk Orman will sue the state of Victoria and seek compensation after the former “Lawyer X” client had his murder conviction quashed and walked free from prison after 12 years.
“I never committed a crime,” Mr Orman told ABC radio on Monday, after his first weekend as a free man.
“If the state could give me all the world’s gold, it would never replace what I’ve been through.”
Mr Orman was freed on Friday and is the first client, but potentially not the last, linked to controversial defence lawyer and Victoria Police informer Nicola Gobbo – known as Lawyer X – to have a criminal conviction overturned.
He was accused of being the getaway driver in the 2002 killing of Victor Peirce by hitman Andrew “Benji” Veniamin.
The prosecution case had relied on the word of another client of Ms Gobbo. Witness Q was being represented by Ms Gobbo at the same time as she was acting for Mr Orman.
Ms Gobbo was blamed for the “substantial miscarriage of justice” that put Mr Orman behind bars for an underworld murder he had always denied.
“I was always known as a gangland killer – like we are getting away with a crime. If people think we’re getting away from a crime, they should have given us a fair trial,” he said.
“The reality is we weren’t getting away with a crime. There are people in jail that are innocent. We’ve got nothing, we are at the mercy of the Attorney-General [Jill Hennessy] … and thankfully she was brave enough to make the decision that she did.”
Mr Orman said while most of those affected had served their full-term sentences they should still be given the chance to have their cases re-heard.
“At the very least give them a retrial. Give them the fairness they should have had even if they get found guilty, let them get found guilty fairly,” he said.
A successful petition for mercy pushed Mr Orman to the head of the appeal court’s queue of former Lawyer X clients, including some of Australia’s biggest-name gangsters such as drug lord Tony Mokbel.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said compensation is a matter for the courts and unsafe convictions should be tested.
“If a conviction is in any way unsafe, then you need to go and test that,” he said on Sunday.
A royal commission is investigating Ms Gobbo’s role as an informer for Victoria Police. The inquiry will resume on Tuesday.